‘Chinese investment’ in sea cucumber farm sparks concerns among northern Sri Lankan fishermen 

Northern Sri Lankan fishermen see authorities’s thrust on business aquaculture as newest risk to their livelihoods and land.

Northern Sri Lankan fishermen see authorities’s thrust on business aquaculture as newest risk to their livelihoods and land.

Citing media experiences of a Chinese language agency investing in a sea cucumber farm in Pungudutivu, off Jaffna Peninsula in northern Sri Lanka, native fishermen have raised concern over its potential affect on their livelihoods, marine ecosystem, and land.  

“We recognise the necessity for funding in our war-affected region, however the sea cucumber farms are primarily for exports. They may solely carry extra hurt than profit for these of us dwelling right here,” mentioned Annalingam Annarasa, President of the Jaffna Fisheries Federation.  The business ventures, they worry, may adversely have an effect on the native marine ecology on which their livelihoods rely.

Small-scale artisanal fishermen like him see the federal government’s latest push on aquaculture as the most recent blow to their livelihoods, already precarious because of the relentless bottom-trawling by Indian fishermen of their seas for years, and the drastic, practically four-fold improve in kerosene worth final month.

The Palk Bay fisheries conflict: A tale of competing livelihoods and a depleted catch

In 2021, Sri Lanka exported about 336 tonnes of sea cucumber to China, Singapore, and Hong Kong, in accordance with native media experiences. Determined to seek out {dollars} to stabilise its battered financial system, the Sri Lankan authorities seems to have recognized potential for each, international funding and exports in breeding and promoting the sausage-shaped marine animal thought of a delicacy in China and Southeast Asia. Locals don’t eat sea cucumbers.

In June this yr, the Cupboard accepted a proposal for a large-scale business sea cucumber challenge spanning 5,000 acres in Jaffna, Mannar, Kilinochchi and Batticaloa districts within the north and east, after Sri Lanka earned “a big quantity” of international change by exporting sea cucumbers. The proposal got here from Fisheries Minister Douglas Devananda, who represents Jaffna district in Parliament. The Nationwide Aquaculture Growth Authority functioning underneath his ministry is main the initiative.

“We want each funding and know-how within the north to domesticate sea cucumbers. I’ve been asking India for 5 to 6 years however haven’t had any response. We should discover different choices, proper? We’re solely speaking to a Chinese language agency, no challenge has been finalised but,” Mr. Devananda informed The Hindu, including he’ll “by no means enable” any risk to India’s safety considerations. Pungudutivu, the place the farm is being proposed, is close to Nainativu, which is among the three islands the place Sri Lanka had cleared a Chinese language renewable power challenge final yr. Nevertheless, with India objecting to it, citing the challenge’s proximity to its southern coast, Sri Lanka cancelled the enterprise, as a substitute agreeing to accommodate an Indian challenge on the three websites.

Jobs or battle?

The ocean cucumber tasks will “definitely carry jobs regionally,” the Minister additional mentioned, guaranteeing the challenge won’t have an effect on native fishermen.

When contacted, the Chinese language Embassy mentioned it had no info but on a Chinese language agency investing in a sea cucumber farm within the small island off Jaffna Peninsula. “It might be a non-public firm negotiating on a business foundation,” a spokesman mentioned. Nevertheless, pointing to an current three way partnership between a Chinese language agency and Sri Lanka, within the coastal village of Ariyalai in Jaffna, the Chinese language official mentioned “it has created about one thousand jobs for close by villages. Final yr it offered 5 lakh sea cucumber seedlings to native farmers without cost and $ a million was introduced in.”

One other Chinese language challenge within the neighbouring Kilinochchi district confronted stiff opposition final yr from native fishermen who objected to the farm fencing off some land adjoining the ocean, limiting entry to even native fishermen. “We agitated since they weren’t consulting us, and we seen that whereas the agency was promoted a hatchery, they had been really fishing the ocean cucumbers from our waters. That type of massive catch frequently can actually harm our marine assets,” mentioned Ok. Baheerathan of the Koutharimunai Fishermen’s Affiliation.

In line with locals, Chinese language investments are fewer in comparison with the proliferation of some 250 sea cucumber farms within the north within the final yr. “Many of the traders are locals, however many will not be from the fisher neighborhood. They’re politically well-connected and influential…the actual subject is our Fisheries Ministry is now targeted solely on aquaculture for earnings, and never fisheries which can also be about livelihoods. Fishermen like us, our experiences or data don’t determine of their plans,” Mr. Annarasa mentioned.

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